PUBLISHED: Monday, February 4, 2008
By Gary Graff
Of The Oakland Press
GRAND RAPIDS -- A Kid Rock concert? That means dancing girls. Giant Confederate flags. Plenty of pyrotechnics. Until this year.
For his Rock N Roll Revival Tour, supporting his chart-topping 2007 album "Rock N Roll Jesus," the Clarkston-based rocker has trimmed the glitz and pimp-of-the-nation trappings -- the extraneous concert bling, if you will -- and has focused instead on the music, with a revue-style spectacle that draws in spirit on the rock and soul packages of the '60s and winds up being a fresh and engrossing experience for an early 21st century audience.
Rock brought it "home" on Friday (Feb. 1) at Van Andel Arena here, the first of four Michigan concert stops on the tour. Despite a catalog that can support the two and a half hour concert on its own, Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker Band -- expanded to 10 pieces for the Revival trek -- were joined by longtime friend Rev. Run of Run-DMC and J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf (former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts joins the tour starting with the Detroit shows on Feb. 8-9).
Rather than use them as opening acts, however, Rock and company incorporated the two icons into the main show for one long evening of music, a daring and spirited celebration that blew some welcome fresh air into Rock's well-practiced presentation and created a kind of musical tutorial for the sold-out and exuberant Grand Rapids crowd.
A white-suited Rock had the rightful first word, of course. Following an over-long hype job by Detroit rapper Champtown, Rock and Twisted Brown Trucker kicked things off with a furious "Rock 'n' Roll Jesus" and "Welcome to the Party," with David McMurray's saxophone honks and Larry Fratangello's musical percussion adding new depth to the Twisted Brown Trucker sound. But Rock didn't wait long to show off his new strategy, bringing Wolf on to sing the Geils hit "Love Stinks" while tossing roses into the crowd.
Wolf would return at the end of the show's first half, joining Rock for the Geils smash "Centerfold" and a Motown medley of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" and the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" before recreating the "Woofah Goofah" rap that led into "Musta Got Lost."
Rev. Run's moment came not long after the show's short intermission, when the Fedora-wearing rapper and Rock worked through a medley of the Run-DMC hits "Rock Box," "It's Like That," "Tricky," "Illin'," "Here We Go" and "King of Rock" before finishing with the group's hit treatment of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." Wolf and Run were back for the encores, too -- a swampy take on Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" and a trio rendition of the spiritual "This Little Light of Mine." Rock's repertoire did not get lost amidst the festivities, however.
Concentrating on the "Rock N Roll Jesus" album, he and Twisted Brown Trucker worked through "Lowlife," the buoyant next single "All Summer Long," "Half Your Age," "Amen" and "So Hott," as well as a devastating version of the soulful ''Roll On'' which featured McMurray. The old hits were there as well -- "American Bad Ass," "Cowboy," "Only God Knows Why," "Picture," "Devil Without a Cause."
In the spirit of the night some changes were made there, too. "Cowboy" still broke into Waylon Jennings' "Theme From the Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol' Boys)" but eschewed the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Cowboy" as the usual introduction. And on "Three Sheets to the Wind" Rock did not take his habitual turn playing every instrument, instead showing off only his turntable skills via a Q&A session with DJ Paradime, answering the latter's questions with well-chosen song selections.
By the time Rock and Twisted Brown Trucker roared into the traditional show-closer, "Bawitdaba," it was clear that this had been anything but a typical Kid Rock show. He hasn't entirely reinvented the wheel, but Rock now rolls with a refreshed energy and a renewed vision, only enhancing and improving upon what's made him such a stalwart performer prior to this.